Headed Nowhere

Comments on A.J. Julius, Reconstruction, version of Jun. 2014

LSE Lectures on Reasons and Rationality” (updated 1/29/11) ABSTRACT

An overview of my work on reasons and rational requirements, which reflects my current thinking about those topics. HIDE

Democracy for Idealists” Mentioned in the Vox article, “The 2010s featured a lot of great social science. Here are my 12 favorite studies.” by Dylan Matthews. ABSTRACT

Recent observers, file dismayed, and dismaying, reports of ills afflicting democracy: more precisely, afflicting, in the case of United States, those specific aspects of democracy that have to do with the relation of opinion and votes to office and policy. To be sure, democracy has other, no less important aspects, such as civil liberties and the rule of law. The "idealist" of my title grants that things are as these (sometimes self-styled) "realists" report, and she shares the dismay. Yet she asks why she is, or anyone should be, dismayed. Presumably, the ills are ills because they contravene certain values or ideals. Our idealist isn't naively hopeful, or uncompromisingly perfectionistic, about realizing the ideals. She is just interested in clarifying what the ideals are. Drawing, in part, on earlier work, I try to articulate and assess different possibilities. I don't reach any tidy conclusion—at least not unless you count the following as tidy (or a conclusion). We can identify several values that explain why many of the ills are ills. All the same, these values, even when taken together, don't explain why all of the ills are ills. So we are left (or at least I am left) with an unease not easily explained. HIDE

Headed Somewhere


The Pecking Order: Social Hierarchy as a Philosophical Problem (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2023). Available now here. ABSTRACT

Much in our interior mental lives and in our exterior social structures presupposes that we, human beings, are conscious of social hierarchy, of differences in rank and status. This book offers an analysis of what social hierarchy is, in terms of asymmetries of power and authority, and disparities of regard. And this book asks what might follow if hierarchy should matter in its own right: if hierarchy—not in all forms, but at least when not appropriately tamed or managed—should itself be something to avoid or regret. In particular, it suggests that we cannot make sense of many familiar ideas about society and politics, both in high theory and in ordinary discourse, without presupposing that there is a distinctive objection to being set beneath another in a social hierarchy. It is not enough to appeal to the fair distribution of goods or the protection of natural rights. Among these familiar ideas are that there is a problem with the state's "coercion" of those subject to it—or, at any rate, something about how the state relates to those subject to it—that requires the state to clear a special bar of "justification" or "legitimacy"; that there is a prohibition on "illiberal" interference, such as fines, in choices of certain kinds, such as religion; that public officials should not be corrupt; that people are entitled to democratic structures of decision-making, which give each person, at some appropriate level, if not at all levels, an equal say; that there is an objection to discrimination on the basis, say, of gender or race; and that people have claims to enjoy the same liberty, opportunity, and treatment that others in one's society enjoy. The lesson is that what drives much of our political thought and feeling is less, as it may first appear, a jealousy for individual freedom and more an apprehension of interpersonal inequality. HIDE

Edited Books

Death and the Afterlife, by Samuel Scheffler, with commentary by Harry Frankfurt, Susan Wolf, Seana Shiffrin, and Niko Kolodny (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding: Essays for Barry Stroud, Co-edited with Jason Bridges and Wai-hung Wong (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Is One More Powerful with Numbers on One's Side?”, co-authored with Sean Ingham, Journal of Political Philosophy (2023). ABSTRACT

In a majoritarian democracy, members of ethnic and other social groups that are numerical minorities may reliably find themselves on the losing side of political decisions. According to a common view, a member of a persistent minority is not less powerful than a member of a persistent majority just because the latter has numbers on his side. Arash Abizadeh has recently challenged this view, arguing that a measure of voting power ought to recognize "the power of numbers": the power that a voter allegedly enjoys when other voters are reliably disposed to vote with him for the alternatives he prefers. In this paper, we raise a number of doubts about the power-of-numbers thesis. The most serious is that it presupposes the use of so-called "backtracking" counterfactuals, which we argue have no place in the analysis of agential power. Persistent minorities may have legitimate objections to majoritarianism, but the power-of-numbers thesis does not identify their ground. HIDE

Is There an Objection to Workplace Hierarchy?” in Julian Jonker and Grant Rozeboom, ed. Working as Equals: Relational Egalitarianism and the Workplace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023), pp. 32–52. ABSTRACT

In a book in progress, I conjecture that several commonplaces of the liberal democratic tradition, such as the idea that the state must be justified, are to be explained by what I call "claims against inferiority": that we not be set beneath another natural person in a social hierarchy. In this chapter, I suggest that among these commonplaces are that workers have objections to certain kinds of treatment in the workplace. This result is a "parallel-case argument": that because the firm is like the state, what is required of the state is likewise required of the firm. In particular, bosses like state officials, must wield their asymmetric power and authority non-corruptly and impartially. The chapter then asks whether the firm, like the state, must be democratic. My answer is inconclusive; it depends on whether the same "tempering factors" that are absent from the state are also absent from the firm. HIDE

Partners and Patients: A Revised Grammar of Social Power,” Political Studies 71:1 (2023): 20–29. Here is the accepted version. ABSTRACT

This brief response concerns Arash Abizadeh's recently proposed four-place "grammar" of agential social power: that the social power of an agent, V, with respect to outcome type O consists in V's capacity to effect outcomes of type O "with the assistance of agents X, despite the resistance of agents Y." Among other problems, this grammar implies that all agential power is social power. I propose, in place of Abizadeh's grammar, that V's social power with respect to O consists in V's capacity to effect O with the assistance of X, thereby affecting patients Y. Among other things, this grammar goes further than Abizadeh's in rejecting the tradition, owing to Max Weber, that holds that all social power is power to overcome resistance. Talk of overcoming resistance drops out of the definition of social power completely. HIDE

Toward an Analysis of Social Hierarchy,” Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 23 (2022): 261–282. ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

Saving Posterity from a Worse Fate,” in Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit, edited by Jeff McMahan, Tim Campbell, James Goodrich, and Ketan Ramakrishnan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022), pp. 264–310. ABSTRACT

Suppose we must choose among different outcomes, in which people fare better or worse. Suppose different people, or different numbers of people, will ever exist at such outcomes. That is, suppose our choice affects the growth of the population, or the identities of future people. Which outcomes, if any, are wrong for us to choose? There are two ways of approaching such questions. The more familiar way might be called "Benefit Thinking." We should make the choice that benefits people more. The less familiar way might be called "Worse-Fate Thinking." We should make the choice that leaves fewer people to a worse fate. It is surprisingly hard to come up with non-question-begging grounds to favor Benefit Thinking over Worse-Fate Thinking: to view Benefit Thinking as the more natural extension of our concern for how people fare, as reflected in "ordinary" moral choices, which don't affect who or how many come to exist. And I suggest that Worse-Fate Thinking, or a combination of Worse-Fate and Benefit Thinking, gives more intuitive answers than does Benefit Thinking to many of the questions of population ethics. HIDE

Discrimination, Subordination, and Pluralism,” Jurisprudence 12 (2021): 571–574. ABSTRACT

A comment on Sophia Moreau Faces of Inequality: A Theory of Wrongful Discrimination Oxford: Oxford University Press (2020). HIDE

“Democratic Law as Medium and Message,” in Seana Shiffrin, Democratic Law, with an introduction by Hannah Ginsborg and commentary by Niko Kolodny, Annie Stilz, and Richard Brooks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), pp. 133–146. ABSTRACT

Because the self-respect of our fellows depends on our communicating to them that we see them as equals, Seana Shiffrin argues in her Tanner Lectures, we need, and we need to participate in and comply with, a system of democratic law. I raise a number of questions about this argument. Is law the best medium for communicating such messages? Why must we craft the message? Why must we do so collectively, in a process in which each of us plays an equal role? Can a collective message so crafted meet our communicative needs, as Shiffrin understands them? HIDE

What, If Anything, Is Wrong With Gerrymandering?San Diego Law Journal 56:4 (2019): 1013–1038. ABSTRACT

Even when electoral districts are drawn in ways that respect the abstract principle of one person, one vote, they can nonetheless seem unfair or otherwise objectionable. It is complained that districts are "uncompetitive" or "gerrymandered," that they "waste" or "dilute" votes, that they strand "persistent minorities," or that they lead to "disproportionate representation." I argue that, as naturally as these objections come to us, they are hard to support and that what support they have comes less from first principles than from historical contingency. HIDE

Why Equality of Treatment and Opportunity Might MatterPhilosophical Studies 176 (2019): 3357–3366. Submitted version here. ABSTRACT

In Why does Inequality Matter? T.M. Scanlon suggests two ways in which equality might matter. First, a citizen might complain that in giving a benefit to another citizen, but not to him, the state failed to have "equal concern" for its citizens. Second, an applicant with weaker qualifications, who fails for that reason to get a position, may complain of the "substantive opportunity" they had to acquire qualifications. I raise some questions about Scanlon's formulation and explanation of equal concern. And I suggest that complaints of substantive opportunity are not comparative, egalitarian complaints, about having worse opportunity than another, but instead non-comparative complaints that arise in competitive contexts, about having worse opportunity that one could have had without unfairness to others. HIDE

Being Under the Power of Others” in Yiftah Elizar and Geneviève Rousselière, Republicanism and the Future of Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 94–114. ABSTRACT

At the core of the recent revival and development of the republican tradition and of Kant's political philosophy is a suggestive thesis: that certain ways of being under the power of others are objectionable as such. However, if we understand the objection as Kantians and republicans understand it, then to live under a state is to be objectionably under the power of others. I suggest, instead, that the objection is to being under the power of a superior person, and it is rooted in a wider concern for social equality. To live under a state need not be to live objectionably under the power of others, so understood. The broader moral is that we need to guard against conflating a concern for nonsubordination—a concern, as it were, to "have no master"—with other forms of freedom. I close with another illustration of this moral, drawn from Rousseau. HIDE

Standing and the Sources of LiberalismPolitics, Philosophy, and Economics 17:2 (2018): 169–91. Email me for a PDF the published version, or here's the submitted version ABSTRACT

Whatever else liberalism involves, it involves the idea that it is objectionable, and often wrong, for the state, or anyone else, to intervene, in certain ways, in certain choices. This paper aims to evaluate different possible sources of support for this core liberal idea. The result is a pluralistic view. It defends, but also stresses the limits of, some familiar elements: that some illiberal interventions impair valuable activities and that some violate rights against certain kinds of invasion. More speculatively, it points to two further sources of support for liberalism, each of which represents a certain kind of social standing: a self-sovereignty compromised simply by being subject to certain kinds of commands and a relational equality compromised by the condemnation of choices with which one's group is identified. HIDE

What Makes Threats Wrong?” Analytic Philosophy 58:2 (2017): 87–118. Email me for a PDF the published version, or here's the submitted version. ABSTRACT

Throughout political philosophy, "state coercion" is thought to present a problem, which can't be solved merely by showing that it makes things better. The coercing state must also meet some further "Condition," or it must also respect some "Limit" on the purposes for which it coerces. To assess whether the problem is the state's threats, I ask what makes threats, in general, wrong, when they are wrong. The main answer is that threats, for a variety of reasons, can leave the choice situation of the threatened person worse than she is entitled to from the threatener. However, this can't be the problem with state coercion, since insofar as the state makes things better, it does not leave choice situations worse. The objection to some wrongful threats, however, lies not in their effect on the choice situation, but instead in the relationship of subordination that they involve. This, I conjecture, is where the problem with state coercion, if there is a problem, lies. It is not that the state's particular acts of coercion strike against our freedom as individuals, but instead that the relationship of subordination that "state coercion" calls to mind must be reconciled with an ideal of equality among individuals. This reconciliation, however, need not require any further "Condition" or "Limit." HIDE

Help Wanted: Subordinates,” in Elizabeth Anderson, Private Government, with an introduction by Stephen Macedo and commentary by David Bromwich, Tyler Cowen, Ann Hughes, and Niko Kolodny (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), pp. 99–107. ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

Dynamics of AffirmationPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research 92:2 (2016): 771–777. Email me for a PDF the published version, or here's the submitted version. If you want (but why would you?) a longer version, see here. ABSTRACT

In The View from Here, R. Jay Wallace argues that we are committed to affirming much that, on reflection, we ought rather to regret. Certain "dynamics" of affirmation, he suggests, drive us to this unsettling conclusion. I distinguish several dynamics at work in Wallace's account. I ask what, if anything, might explain them and what they might imply. All but one of these dynamics seem to me implausible or distracting. The remaining dynamic, however, can be given even more compelling support than Wallace offers on its behalf. And this dynamic alone suffices to establish Wallace's unsettling conclusion. HIDE

Political Rule and Its Discontents” (formerly “Justifying the State”) Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy 2 (2016) 35–68. Submitted version. ABSTRACT

States stand, or are said to stand, in certain relations of rule to their subjects. These relations of rule are thought to pose a problem. My aim is to understand the problem better, on a common way of framing it. This framing has two main elements. First, those who are subject to the problematic relations of rule are thought to have a complaint against those relations. Second, this complaint is not that the state in question is a bad bargain, in the sense that it leaves its subjects with a worse distribution of means to a fulfilling life. What answers the complaint, if anything does, is either a condition—for example, that those subject to the relation of rule consent to it, or that it is "acceptable" to them—or a limit—for example, that the state is "minimal," or that it is liberal. Which relations of rule provoke this complaint? And why is the complaint met by, and only by, limits or conditions of the kind so often proposed? I investigate several familiar candidates for the problematic relation of rule. With respect to each candidate target of the complaint, we find one or both of two things. First, removing the candidate target doesn't remove the complaint. That is, if we subtract, in imagination, the relation of rule in question, we are still left, intuitively, with a complaint of the kind that we are trying to make sense of. Second, the complaint against the candidate relation of rule is answerable, either by anyone's lights, or at least by the lights of those who insist that there is a complaint, even without the conditions and limits that they invoke. Although I consider complaints against being bound by political obligations, being threatened, and being taxed, I devote the greatest attention to complaints against punishment or, more accurately, the imposition of deterrents for violations of state directives. The most serious complaint is that such imposition violates a deontological constraint on using force even to achieve a greater good. I observe, first, that we can remove the target. There might be a system of deterrent imprisonment that did not involve force or any other treatment subject to a general deontological constraint. Still, the felt complaint would remain. I argue, second, that the complaint is answerable, without any special conditions or limits, at least by the lights of anyone who accepts the Lockean idea that deterrents may be imposed for violations of natural prohibitions on the use of force. This is because there is no relevant moral difference between imposing deterrents for the violation of natural prohibitions and imposing deterrents for the violation of state directives. Granted, the complaint might well not be answerable if, as many assume, it is permissible to impose a deterrent only for the violation of a duty. This is because there may not always be a duty to comply with state directives. But there is no good reason to assume that it is permissible to impose a deterrent only for the violation of a duty. On the contrary, the state may permissibly "punish" people for permissible acts. So what then nourishes this pervasive idea: that some relation of rule provokes a complaint, which in turn requires special conditions or limits? I am not sure. But, at the end of the paper, I explore a possibility. It is an anxiety that in being subject to the state's decisions, we are subordinated, or put into relations of inferiority, to other people. The problem of political rule, if there is one, is not so much of reconciling political rule with the liberty of the individual, but rather of reconciling it with an ideal of equality among individuals. What would appear to answer this Subordination Complaint, as I call it, is not consent, or acceptability, or a retreat to the minimal state, but instead something more like democracy: a state in which no individual is subordinated to any other. HIDE

Rule Over None II: Social Equality and the Justification of DemocracyPhilosophy and Public Affairs 42:4 (2014): 287–336. This is the accepted version of the article, which has been published in final form here. Please email me for an offprint. ABSTRACT

What justifies democracy? My suggestion—which, I hope, will seem, once stated, not so much surprising as resonantly familiar—is that democracy is one constituent, and a particularly important constituent, of a society in which people are related to one another as social equals, as opposed to social inferiors or superiors. The concern for democracy is rooted in a concern not to have anyone else "above"—or, for that matter, "below"—us: in the aspiration for a society in which none rules over any other. Having made this suggestion, I then ask to what extent this justification of democracy, rooted in relations of social equality, constrains what sort of democracy we should have. The answer has two sides, roughly speaking. On the one hand, when it comes to formal structures, social equality constrains deflatingly little. On the other hand, when it comes to informal conditions, social equality constrains almost impossibly much. HIDE

Rule Over None I: What Justifies Democracy?Philosophy and Public Affairs 42:3 (2014): 195–229. This is the accepted version of the article, which has been published in final form here. Please email me for an offprint. ABSTRACT

Democracy is thought to have a straightforward justification or, indeed, justifications. There is a powerful instrumental case for democracy. At least over the long run, democracy better secures individual liberty and broadly shared prosperity than the alternatives. Moreover, democracy seems to have more intrinsic virtues. It is a particularly fitting response to persistent disagreement. It treats people fairly. It does not insult them. It realizes a form of autonomy. It provides avenues for civic engagement. However, I doubt that any of these considerations represents even a pro tanto justification of democracy of the right kind—at least not unless it rests on some prior, independent justification. Or so I argue in this article. My aim is to clear the ground for such an independent justification, which I sketch here, but explore more fully in the companion to this article. HIDE

Instrumental Reasons” in The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity, edited by Daniel Star. ABSTRACT

Often our reason for doing something is an "instrumental reason": that doing that is a means to doing something else that we have reason to do. What principles govern this "instrumental transmission" of reasons from ends to means? Negatively, I argue against principles often invoked in the literature, which focus on necessary or sufficient means. Positively, I propose a principle, "General Transmission," which answers to two intuitive desiderata: that reason transmits to means that are "probabilizing" and "nonsuperfluous" with respect to the relevant end. I then apply General Transmission to the debate over "detachment": whether "wide-scope" reason for a material conditional or disjunction implies "narrow-scope" reason for the consequent or disjuncts. HIDE

That I Should Die and Others Live,” in Death and the Afterlife, by Samuel Scheffler, edited by Niko Kolodny, with commentary by Harry Frankfurt, Susan Wolf, Seana Shiffrin, and Niko Kolodny (New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2013), pp. 159–73. ABSTRACT

This comment explores some striking implications of Scheffler’s apparent claim that we have reason to fear death, independently of its "depriving" us of the goods of future life, because it "extinguishes" us: brings it about that we no longer exist. It then probes Scheffler's arguments that if we never died, we would not live a value-laden life, or any life at all. Finally, it suggests that the survival of humanity may matter to us more than our own personal survival not only emotionally, as Scheffler claims, but also motivationally. HIDE

Raz's Nexus” in Jurisprudence 2:2 (2011): 333–352. This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the article, which has been published in final form here. ABSTRACT

A comment on Joseph Raz's From Normativity to Responsibility. HIDE

Scanlon's Investigation: The Relevance of Intent to Permissibility,” in Analytic Philosophy 52:2 (2011): 100–123. Subscription required. Please email me for an offprint, or download the submitted draft. ABSTRACT

In Moral Dimensions, T.M. Scanlon questions whether the reason for which an action is performed affects its permissibility. I examine Scanlon's line of inquiry and the general view of the relation between intent and permissibility that results. HIDE

Ifs and Oughts,” co-authored with John MacFarlane, in Journal of Philosophy 107:3 (2010): 115–143. ABSTRACT

We consider a paradox involving indicative conditionals and deontic modals ("oughts"). After considering and rejecting several standard options for resolving the paradox—including rejecting various premises, positing an ambiguity or hidden contextual sensitivity, and positing a non-obvious logical form—we offer a semantics for deontic modals and indicative conditionals that resolves the paradox. Our semantics resolves the paradox by making modus ponens invalid. We argue that this is a result to be welcomed on independent grounds, and we show that rejecting the general validity of modus ponens is compatible with vindicating most ordinary uses of modus ponens in reasoning. HIDE

Aims as Reasons,” in Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T.M. Scanlon, edited by Samuel Freeman, Rahul Kumar, and R. Jay Wallace (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 43–78. ABSTRACT

Along with many other contemporary philosophers, T.M. Scanlon argues that our present attitudes (such as beliefs, desires, or intentions) do not give us reasons. At the core of this position, I suggest, is the denial that attitudes can provide reasons in some way different from the way in which things of value characteristically provide reasons. I then try to answer a challenge to this position, which Scanlon himself raises: that sometimes (especially when one's reasons underdetermine a choice among aims) having an aim seems to affect one's reasons without affecting one's value-provided reasons. If "having an aim" is understood as having an intention, I suggest, then having an aim usually will affect one's value-provided reasons. In large part, this is because of what Scanlon calls the "predictive significance" of intention: the fact that forming an intention changes what the future is likely to bring. If "having an aim" is understood instead as an aim's "mattering" or "being important" to one, then having an aim can also affect one's value-provided reasons, but in a different way: by constituting a special kind of value. HIDE

The Explanation of Amour-Propre,” Philosophical Review 119:2 (2010): 165–200. ABSTRACT

Rousseau's thought is marked by an optimism and a pessimism which each evoke, at least in the right mood, a feeling of recognition difficult to suppress. We have an innate capacity for virtue, and with it freedom and happiness. Yet our present social conditions instill in us a restless craving for superiority, which leads to vice, and with it bondage and misery. Call this the "thesis of possible goodness": that while human psychology is such that men become wicked under the conditions in which we now find them, nevertheless men would be, or have been, good under other conditions. It is surprisingly difficult, or at least surprisingly complicated, however, to articulate even a possible psychology that would explain the thesis of possible goodness. Interpretations of Rousseau, even several to which I am highly indebted, have not fully engaged, I think, with the complications. I try to reconstruct psychological principles that would explain the thesis and that are at least consistent with what he otherwise says on the subject. Much of the value of this exercise, however, lies not in the particulars of the resulting psychology, but rather in the depth of the tension between Rousseau's optimism and his pessimism that it reveals. HIDE

Which Relationships Justify Partiality? The Case of Parents and ChildrenPhilosophy and Public Affairs 38:1 (2010): 37–75. (This is an electronic version of an article published in Philosophy & Public Affairs. Complete citation information for the final version of the paper, as published in the print edition of Philosophy & Public Affairs, is available on the Blackwell Synergy online delivery service, accessible via the journal's website at or ABSTRACT

Although we have countless interpersonal relationships, we have reason for partiality only in some. Why is this? Why is there reason for friendship and love of family, but not for racism or omertà? In this paper, and its companion, "Which Relationships Justify Partiality? General Considerations and Problem Cases," I try to make some progress toward a principled answer, by appealing to a neglected form of normative explanation, "resonance." In this paper, I distinguish various reasons for partiality between parents and children, I explore the possibility of taking seriously the deep and widespread view that genetic relationships matter.HIDE

Errata: On p. 44, the two occurrences of "child" should be "health."

Which Relationships Justify Partiality? General Considerations and Problem Cases,” in Brian Feltham and John Cottingham, eds, Partiality and Impartiality: Morality, Special Relationships and the Wider World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 169–193. ABSTRACT

Although we have countless interpersonal relationships, we have reason for partiality only in some. Why is this? Why is there reason for friendship and love of family, but not for racism or omertà? In this paper and its companion, "Which Relationships Justify Partiality? The Case of Parents and Children," try to make some progress toward a principled answer, by appealing to a neglected phenomenon, "resonance." I suggest how resonance might explain why some relationships support partiality, while other relationships do not, paying special attention to the case of racism. I end with some reflections on the implications of this account for other relationships, such as co-citizenship; for the defense of partiality in general; and for the difficult relations between partiality and other norms, most notably those of impartial morality. HIDE

Errata: On p. 181, "natural" should be "nonreactive," and "moral" should be "reactive."

Comments on Munoz-Darde, ‘Liberty's Chains,’” This is an electronic version of a Paper published in Supplemental Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 83:1 (2009): 197–212. ABSTRACT

Munoz-Darde argues that a social contract theory must meet Rousseau's "liberty condition": that, after the social contract, each "nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before." She claims that Rousseau's social contract does not meet this condition, for reasons that suggest that no other social contract theory could. She concludes that political philosophy should turn away from social contract theory's preoccupation with authority and obedience, and focus instead on what she calls the "legitimacy" of social arrangements. I raise questions about each of these claims. HIDE

Reply to Bridges,” Mind 118:470 (2009): 369–376. (There is an error in the printed abstract. The semi-colon should be a comma.) ABSTRACT

In "Rationality, Normativity, and Transparency," Jason Bridges argues that the "Transparency Account" (TA) of my "Why Be Rational?" has a hidden flaw. The TA does not, after all, account for the fact that (1) in our ordinary, engaged thought and talk about rationality, we believe that, when it would be irrational of one of us to refuse to A, he has, because of this, conclusive reason to A. My reply is that this was the point. For reasons given in "Why Be Rational?" (1) is false. The aim of the TA is to offer an interpretation of our engaged thought and talk that is compatible with the falsity of (1) and that helps to explain why, when reflecting on our thought and talk, we are so prone to misrepresent what it involves. After making these points, I consider alternative senses in which rationality might be, or be taken by us to be, "normative" and conclude that these alternatives have little bearing on the TA. HIDE

The Myth of Practical Consistency,” European Journal of Philosophy 16:3 (2008): 366–402. (Subscription required. Here is an almost final version.) ABSTRACT

Joseph Raz suggests that instrumental rationality—the idea that there is a special faculty or set of norms devoted to taking the apparent means to our ends—is a myth. There is only the structure of reasons and our responsiveness, insofar as we are rational, to that structure. I apply Raz's approach to practical consistency: to the idea that there is a special faculty or set of norms devoted to avoiding intentions that we believe that we cannot jointly fulfill. Here too, I suggest, there is only the structure of reasons and our responsiveness, insofar as we are rational, to that structure. HIDE

Why Be Disposed to Be Coherent?,” Ethics 118:3 (2008): 437–463. ABSTRACT

It has been suggested that requirements to make our attitudes formally coherent are somehow justified by the value of dispositions to make our attitudes formally coherent. These dispositions are valuable, it is said, because they are means to having the attitudes that reason requires, or because they are necessary for having those attitudes. This claim, I argue, is untenable. These dispositions are not means, or they are only inferior means, to having the attitudes that reason requires. And they are not necessary for having attitudes. HIDE

How Does Coherence Matter?,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107:1 (2007): 229–263. (Subscription required. Here are uncorrected proofs). ABSTRACT

Recently, much attention has been paid to "rational requirements" and, especially, to what I call "rational requirements of formal coherence as such." These requirements are satisfied just when our attitudes are formally coherent: for example, when our beliefs do not contradict each other. Nevertheless, these requirements are puzzling. In particular, it is unclear why we should satisfy them. In light of this, I explore the conjecture that there are no requirements of formal coherence. I do so by trying to construct a theory of error for the idea that there are such requirements. HIDE

State or Process Requirements?,” Mind 116:462 (2007): 371–85. ABSTRACT

In his "Wide or Narrow Scope?", John Broome questions my contention in "Why Be Rational?" that certain rational requirements are narrow scope. The source of our disagreement, I suspect, is that Broome believes that the relevant rational requirements govern states, whereas I believe that they govern processes. If they govern states, then the debate over scope is sterile. The difference between narrow- and wide-scope state requirements is only as important as the difference between not violating a requirement and satisfying one. Broome's observations about conflicting narrow-scope state requirements only corroborate this. Why, then, have we thought that there was an important difference? Perhaps, I conjecture, because there is an important difference between narrow- and wide-scope process requirements, and we have implicitly taken process requirements as our topic. I clarify and try to defend my argument that some process requirements are narrow scope, so that if there were reasons to conform to rational requirements, there would be implausible bootstrapping. I then reformulate Broome's observations about conflicting narrow-scope state requirements as an argument against narrow-scope process requirements, and suggest a reply. HIDE

Why Be Rational?,” Mind 114:455 (2005): 509–63. ABSTRACT

Normativity involves two kinds of relation. On the one hand, there is the relation of being a reason for. This is a relation between a fact and an attitude. On the other hand, there are relations specified by requirements of rationality. These are relations among a person's attitudes, viewed in abstraction from the reasons for them. I ask how the normativity of rationality—the sense in which we "ought" to comply with requirements of rationality—is related to the normativity of reasons—the sense in which we "ought" to have the attitudes what we have conclusive reason to have. The normativity of rationality is not straightforwardly that of reasons, I argue; there are no reasons to comply with rational requirements in general. First, this would lead to "bootstrapping," because, contrary to the claims of John Broome, not all rational requirements have "wide scope." Second, it is unclear what such reasons to be rational might be. Finally, we typically do not, and in many cases could not, treat rational requirements as reasons. Instead, I suggest, rationality is only apparently normative, and the normativity that it appears to have is that of reasons. According to this "Transparency Account," rational requirements govern our responses to our beliefs about reasons. The normative "pressure" that we feel, when rational requirements apply to us, derives from these beliefs: from the reasons that, as it seems to us, we have. HIDE

Love as Valuing a Relationship,” Philosophical Review 112:2 (2003): 135–89. ABSTRACT

I argue that love is a response to reasons. Resistance to this idea, I suggest, stems from the natural, but mistaken assumption that any reason for loving a person would have to be a nonrelational feature that she has. I argue against this assumption, contending that one's reason for loving a person is instead one's relationship to her: the ongoing history that one shares with her. I then try to answer two objections to this view: that it gives love the wrong object and that it makes love a reason for itself. HIDE

Promises and Practices Revisited,” co-authored with R. Jay Wallace, Philosophy and Public Affairs 31:2 (2003): 119–54. ABSTRACT

In "Promises and Practices," T.M. Scanlon argued that the "value of assurance" alone explains why it is wrong to break a promise; no appeal to social practices is necessary. We agree that the value of assurance must be part of an explanation, but argue that it cannot be the whole of one. Unless an account of the wrongness of promise-breaking also appeals to practices, we contend, it cannot explain how promises succeed in generating assurance. The upshot is a hybrid view, according to which breaking a promise involves both the wrong of violating assurance and the wrong of exploiting a practice. HIDE

Do Associative Duties Matter?,” Journal of Political Philosophy 10:3 (2002): 250–66. (Subscription required.) ABSTRACT

It is often assumed that associative duties, which are owed specially to our friends, family, and countrymen, stand in the way of our achieving desirable distributive aims, such as equality and maximal welfare. This paper argues that this and related assumptions are false in a central range of cases. HIDE

The Ethics of Cryptonormativism: A Defense of Foucault’s Evasions,” Philosophy and Social Criticism 22:5 (1996): 63–84. (Subscription required.) ABSTRACT

In his later work, Foucault was more skeptical of theory than he was of norms. His apparent evasion of normative theory was not meant to suggest, as some interpreters have thought, that normative theory is useless or oppressive, but rather that it is fragile and uncertain, that it depends for its practical effect on something essentially untheorizable: character, or what Foucault alternately called "ethos" and "philosophical life." This conception of ethos suggests a way to make sense of Foucault's "cryptonormativism" — his apparent tendency to rely tacitly on norms that he publicly rejected — and sheds light on his views on authorship and the purpose of genealogy. HIDE

Introductions, Forewords, Prefaces

Introduction,” in Death and the Afterlife, by Samuel Scheffler, edited by Niko Kolodny, with commentary by Harry Frankfurt, Susan Wolf, Seana Shiffrin, and Niko Kolodny (New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2013), pp. 3–11. ABSTRACT

A discussion of the main themes of Samuel Scheffler's Death and the Afterlife. HIDE

Foreword” in Harvest Moon: The Berkeley Undergraduate Philosophy Journal, 2011 New Crop Prize Edition (2012): vii–viii. ABSTRACT

An account of the New Crop Prize Competition, with summaries of the five final papers from 2011, by Charles Goldhaber, Mi-Hwa Saunders, Daniel Sharp, Nader Shoabi, and Alex Setzepfandt. HIDE

The Quest to Understand Philosophy,” co-authored with Jason Bridges, in The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding: Essays for Barry Stroud, edited by Jason Bridges, Niko Kolodny, and Wai-hung Wong (New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2011), pp. 3–12. ABSTRACT

This essay interprets and elaborates upon some of the central themes of Barry Stroud’s philosophical work. Particular focus is placed upon Stroud’s concern with the distinctive nature of the understanding sought in philosophy and upon his views about the prospects for achieving that understanding. HIDE

Encyclopedia Entries

Instrumental Rationality,” co-authored with John Brunero, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Objectivity in Ethics,” in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Second Edition, ed. Donald Borchert (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006).

Addendum to “Love,” in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Second Edition, ed. Donald Borchert (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006).


Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels, Democracy for Realists (Princeton University Press, 2016) and Jason Brennan, Against Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2016) in Boston Review February 17, 2017.

Harry G. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004) in Journal of Philosophy 103:1 (2006): 43–50. (Subscription required. Here is an uncorrected draft.)

R. Jay Wallace, Philip Pettit, Samuel Scheffler, and Michael Smith, Reason and Value: Themes from the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004) in Mind 115:458 (2006): 498–502. (Subscription required. Here is an uncorrected draft.)